Yesterday, the DC Council unanimously approved the plan to pay stipends to up to 50 at-risk individuals to participate in a violence intervention program if they remain crime-free, as part of the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016.
A last minute amendment introduced by council member Kenyan McDuffie — which also passed unanimously — makes the annual report for the stipend program exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and thus not available to the public. The section in question reads as follow:
(c)(1) Beginning on January 31, 2017, and by January 31 of each year thereafter, the [Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement] shall provide a report to the Council, protective of personally-identifying information, which includes the following information from the reporting period and in the aggregate:
(i) The number of individuals successfully recruited and engaged;
(ii) The duration of individuals’ participation;
(iii) The status of participants’ progress; and
(iv) The participants’ age, race or ethnicity, gender, and ward of residence.
(2) The information contained in this report shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
The rationale given?
According to councilmember McDuffie, making the report exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act “ensures that the confidentiality of the personally-identifiable information of existing and potential ONSE participants is maintained.”
But, as required by the provision just quoted, the report will include information in the aggregate that does not include any personally-identifiable information.
Why keep that kind of information secret?
As one commenter noted, this “will make it harder to know whether [the] unorthodox anti-crime approach is actually working.”
The legislation, as passed, will now go to the Mayor for signature. If you object to the secrecy, let the Mayor know. There’s an online form to submit comments here.